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Trees Recognize Their Offspring

Trees talk to each other and recognize their offspring. That's the title of an interesting article by Derek Markham updated January 11, 2021 on treehugger.com.

 

In it, Markham wrote that after large tracts of land left treeless from clearcutting are replanted, many people think that replanting is successful. But when one tree is replanted to replace another that has been cut down, it doesn't take into consideration an important reality. Trees form families, and mothers take special care of their tree offspring.

 

The article quoted forest ecologist Suzanne Simard, who spoke at TEDSummit 2016. She has spent three decades researching trees in Canada's forests. Simard told the listeners that trees are much more than a collection of plants independent of each other.

 

She began to wonder if trees could recognize their own kin like parents recognize their children and mother grizzlies know their own cubs. So she and others began an experiment in which they grew mother trees with both their kin and with strangers' seedlings. Among the measurements they used was isotope tracing. With it, they traced carbon and other defense signals "moving from an injured mother tree down her trunk into the mycorrhizal network and into her neighboring seedlings." A mycorrhizal network is made up of underground networks created by mycorrhizal fungi that eventually result in mushrooms. Those fungi connect individual plants together. They transfer water, carbon, nitrogen, and other nutrients and minerals.

 

The experiment revealed that mother trees really do recognize their own kin. They do many things to help their seedlings prosper. Mother trees send their own seedlings "more carbon below ground," Simard said. "They even reduce their own root competition to make elbow room for their kids. When mother trees are injured or dying, they also send messages of wisdom on to the next generation of seedlings."

 

Without any visible proof except my own experience, I've noticed if you spend enough time around certain trees with a respectful attitude, they come to trust you. In a way I don't understand, they let other trees know they can trust you too. If you think that couldn't be, try experimenting with the idea. Spend time around trees you enjoy. Express gratitude for them. Meditate near them. Listen with your heart to sense if they need something from you.

 

Once you establish a trusting connection with one or more trees, when you travel somewhere else you may sense that trees you don't know want your attention. Somehow they have learned you're someone to be trusted. If you get to know trees, don't be surprised if other trees want your attention as well.

 

Our world is more connected that we often realize. Just as trees communicate with their own seedlings, they can develop a relationship with us as well. Those connections are beneficial to us if we take the time to cultivate an appreciation for trees.

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